Friday, February 28, 2014

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Play It This Weekend: Explore Deep Space and Decipher Alien Languages in Out There for Android and iOS

Out There iOS  (1)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

So you're lost in space, now what? It's the premise of a fair number of games (indie or otherwise) in recent memory. However, what defines Out There, newly available for both Android and iOS, from them is how little it's concerned with the one thing that many of those other games have in common:


Out There is not a shooter. It's not a tactical battle simulator. You're not a crew of rebels nor are you a crew of warmongers. You're one unlucky fool who's found himself very far from home. So now what?

Out There iOS  (3)

I found myself in a rough situation yesterday. The engines that propelled me from planet to planet exploded. I was alive, the ship was intact, but there was a pile of iron where those engines were supposed to be.

Out There iOS  (4)

The good news was that my Space Folder, the device that lets me travel large distances in space relatively quickly, was still functional. I could hop from star system to star system, though I wouldn't have the ability to approach the planets within it. That means I couldn't extract resources from them, and I would be at the mercy of fate and random events to provide the fuel and oxygen I would need to continue. 

Out There iOS  (10)

Fate provided for far longer than I expected, but not long enough for me to find what I needed to repair the engines. I only realized after I ended the game, drifting fuel-less around a yellow dwarf, that I could have dissassembled my mining drill to get what I needed. It's not a perfect solution, but it would have bought me time.

Oh well.

Out There iOS  (6)

The best way to wrap your head around Out There without spoiling too much of the thrill you'll get from early runs with specific details is to compare it to FTL, an indie game that has seen phenomenal success with a mix of roguelike and traditional tactics-based gameplay. Success often comes down to careful resource management and crew delegation, and while that might not sound like the most engaging thing in the world, the ultra-tense space battles and unexpected events make it just that.

Now take FTL and strip away the guns, the the lasers, the explosions... What do you say to an alien when your gun's not drawn?

Out There iOS  (9)

The answer is not much, until you learn their language. As you move from system to system in the general direction of home, you'll gather resources from planets, encounter derelict ships and space stations, and often run into signs of alien life (if not life itself). When you do, you'll often glean something from the encounter. It might be resources, technology, or language -- something even more valuable than either.

Out There iOS  (5)

A word here and there whose meaning can be extracted from the context it was used in is invaluable, because the next time you encounter that word it will be translated. The benefits of this are tremendous, but suffice it to say you're much less likely to get blown up in a minefield if you know how to read the alien hazard sign.

Out There iOS  (7)

This barely scratches the surface of Out There. At the risk of spoiling some of it's surprises, I'll leave you will this: The more you play (and die, and play again) the more you'll unravel, both about your situation and the world(s) around you. So you're lost in space, now what?

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times, and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.


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I just started playing it last night -- it rocks!

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